Jeju proposes an “eco-tourism tax” to curb environmental damage from tourism

Lava rock formation at Jusangjeoli rocks at Jeju Image Credits:

Planning a trip to South Korea and hoping to hop by Jeju Island for a night or two?

We’ve got bad news for you.

Well, not exactly bad news yet since it has not been implemented but plans are underway.

So Jeju, which we all know is a well-known resort area in Korea, is looking to charge visitors a fee to help protect the environment.

They’re calling it an “eco-tourism tax”.

Last week, the local government on Jeju Island released a report about charging visitors more to help ‘take care’ of the environment.

How much will be charged?

It suggested charging about 1,500 KRW (1.51 SGD) per night for hotel rooms.

But that’s not all.

There are also plans to charge around 5,000 KRW (5.03 SGD) per day to rent a car/vehicle, and 5% of the cost for bus tours.

These amounts are based on a study from a few years ago about charging visitors on the island in the name of an “eco-tourism tax”.

The money collected would be used to help with problems like pollution and sewage.

It would also protect natural areas from the over 10 million people who visit each year.

Will the tax apply only to Jeju?
Woman harvesting tangerines

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The report said Jeju would be the first place in Korea to do this.

Many popular places in Europe already charge these environmental fees and the report by the Korea Environment Institute (KEI) thinks Jeju should seriously consider doing the same thing.

The fees are allowed under a Korean law about environmental protection, which states that people who benefit from nature should help pay for it.

Jeju is known for its natural areas and volcanoes listed by UNESCO but the report also pointed out that while tourism is big for Jeju, it causes pollution problems.

In addition, the island doesn’t make much money even though so many people visit.

In the future, other places such as Gangwon Province and Ulleung Island may start charging environmental fees too…


What other countries are doing

Many countries in Europe, Asia, and the Pacific have started charging “green fees” in recent years to control overtourism and pollution.

Jeju has tried passing these fees before since 2012 but stakeholders have opposed it, citing nuances of an “island entrance fee”.

Now, both major political candidates support the idea.

The local governor also wants it.

But some worry it may discourage people from visiting if it costs more, even its own residents from other cities.

In fact, the number of Korean visitors was down last year while more traveled abroad.

The local government will discuss the report more later this month and plan to introduce the fees if a new national law allows it after Korea’s general elections in April.

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